African American Boys’ Progression From Pre-K to Prison

Posted by on April 26, 2010

America’s lost boys

A new study from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry argues that the conditions that contribute to a high representation of African American males among incarcerated youth (60 percent) begin early in life, and are often exacerbated by experiences in school. The report projects that by 2029, prisons will house almost 30,000 of the 600,000 African American four-year-olds now living in the country. According to study author Oscar Barbarin, African American males come to school with fewer skills than their Caucasian or female counterparts at this age, who generally have better developed language, literacy, and self-regulation. Boys’ limitations are often not properly recognized or addressed as they progress though school, and this is can be compounded by behavioral issues, as well as by racial segregation within schools. Barbarin agrees that programs such as Head Start, Boys and Girls Clubs, and state-funded early childhood programs have tried to address these issues. However, Barbarin feels that the principle of the “three Xs” — “Expose, Explain, Expand” — can go a long way toward engaging children and encouraging pride by way of a caring, responsible, and ethical philosophy. Barbarin writes, “Once the juveniles enter the justice system, the repeat offender rate is sixty percent. This research calls for optimism in spite of a vicious downward cycle experienced by many young males, which marginalizes them at school, at work, at home, and in their communities.”

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